The Necessity of SPEAKING the Gospel

“Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.” This quote is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, a Roman Catholic preacher who lived in 13th and 14th centuries. Although there is no reliable record of Francis saying this-that is, before the 1990s-many Christians have been quick to adopt the quote as a motto for evangelism. Whatever the quote’s origin, it’s confused at best, and entirely untrue at worst.

To say Christians should preach the gospel and use words when they necessary is to confuse the very nature of the gospel. First, we should know what is the gospel. Simply put, the gospel is the verbal message or announcement about the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. The gospel is good news; good news of Jesus’ grace toward sinners, seen in His perfect life, death, and resurrection on our behalf. But catch the point again: The gospel is a message, and messages are meant to be spoken. In fact, they must be spoken. considering the way God talks about the gospel in Scripture, we must conclude that the gospel does not go out except by the verbal proclamation of its good news. The gospel can be spoken. The gospel can be written. In whatever way the gospel is communicated, it will always come out in words. This means that if we are not speaking to people about Jesus and His incredible grace, we are not sharing the gospel. There are many good deeds for us to do-and we should do them-but unless we are speaking the words of life, we are not sharing the gospel. Our good deeds may open doors for us to speak up, but we speak up we must!

Second, the gospel is a message about what Jesus has done. It is not a message about what we have done, or what we must do. It is about Jesus. Every now and then, we hear someone say something like, “I’m not comfortable talking to people about Jesus. I prefer to live out the gospel in front of others.” While it is true that the gospel intimately transforms the way Christians live, this statement is a kind of oxymoron. Live out the gospel is a contradiction. The gospel is not something we can live; it is not a series of commands like the law; it is an announcement to be heralded to all who need to hear.
Have you been trying to live out the gospel, or have you been speaking out the gospel? If you have been aiming to share the gospel with your life, it’s time to link your life with words of life. It’s time to speak up. I know what a challenge this change can be; it’s a change I had to make myself.

Five Stages of a Gospel Conversation
For many people, the most difficult part of sharing the gospel with someone is starting a conversation. If you are a Christian, you probably know enough about the gospel to lead someone to Christ. Therefore, the problem is not that the gospel is hard to explain, but the problem of starting a conversation that gives most Christians trouble. Basically, an evangelistic conversation is made up of 5 stages.

Stage 1: Positive Contact
When attempting to share the gospel with someone, you should try to begin with a “positive contact.” I’m sure you have heard the popular business line, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” This is not only true when interviewing for a job, but is also true of evangelism. A positive first contact may be the difference between someone listening to your gospel and turning a deaf ear. Therefore, a positive first contact is as easy as committing a simple act of friendliness. How is your day going? Has the store been busy today? Do you have any weekend plans? These are simple examples of how you might make a positive contact.

Stage 2: Common Ground
After making a positive contact, the second stage in an evangelistic conversation is finding what you have in common with the other person. You may not realize it, but all people have things in common with each other. We all have a hometown, a daily routine, and family or friends. It is on common ground that people relate to one another. This can be done simply by asking the other person a question or two about himself. These questions should be simple and down-to-earth. Showing genuine interest in the life of another person is a great way to reveal the love of Christ. Our objective should be to take the first reasonable opportunity to share Christ with others.

Stage 3: The Shift
In every witnessing encounter, there comes a time when friendliness becomes evangelism. This happens when you shift from the natural to the spiritual. The “natural” consists of common ground conversation topics we discussed earlier. In order for a conversation to be evangelistic, you must learn to shift from the natural to the spiritual. Without the shift, you are nothing more than a friendly person. If you have done some preliminary work to make a good first impression and establish common ground, the shift from the natural to the spiritual can be fairly easy. There are many ways to shift a conversation from small talk to spiritual talk, like discussing troubling current events like war and racial tensions; or simply asking spiritual questions like “Do you go to church around here?” We just need to keep our eyes open for opportunities.

Stage 4: A Gospel Presentation
The fourth stage in an evangelistic conversation is a clear gospel presentation. This stage is the most important of all. Romans 1:16 explains that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of salvation for those who believe. Remember, if your conversation does not reach this stage you have done nothing truly evangelistic. Since this stage is so important, you should find ways to grow in your ability to share the message of faith in Christ. Read books, watch videos, and talk with other Christians to sharpen your ability to communicate clearly.

Stage 5: Questions and Answers
The 5th and final stage of an evangelistic conversation concerns questions and answers. As you clearly share the gospel with others they will usually respond with questions about the Bible, the world, and salvation. This takes time as well; to learn to answer key questions posed by your hearers. You can learn about this as you study the Bible and are purposefully involved in church.

Well, now you know all you need to know in order to begin and end an evangelistic conversation. All that is left is for you to begin putting these principles into practice with God’s gracious help. It’s time to speak up. You must!